The Post-Postmodernism Issue

Richard Wright

This painting will self-destruct.
Wall Markings by Richard Wright from the Turner Prize exhibition at the Tate
Wall Markings by Richard Wright from the Turner Prize exhibition at the Tate, Britain

Richard Wright, this year’s recipient of Britain’s Turner Prize, began his career as a figurative painter working on canvas. When he abandoned that medium he destroyed his entire existing body of work. Those paintings on canvas, he said, were rubbish, influenced by ideas connected to another time. Wright wanted to work in the present, to make paintings that were part of the immediate world. So he began to create art that was designed to be destroyed, designed to exist only temporarily before being reabsorbed by the space surrounding it. Wright’s paintings are now entirely contextual. He creates work for specific architectural spaces, injecting new meaning into previously overlooked corners of our existence. His subtle, ambient designs imbue physical space with emotional content, expanding our understanding of both space and our own role within it.

The art is defined by its fragility, both physical and temporal. Wright’s delicate, curvilinear designs don’t only echo organic forms. Because they are fleeting and profoundly mortal, they essentially are organic. Each work has a lifespan of weeks, perhaps months, before it is rolled over with white paint – leaving the art to exist only in the memories of those who have seen it.

By its very nature, Wright’s ephemeral work exists outside the market. It cannot be traded, collected or owned. And the impermanence of his creations serves to undercut the idea of the object as eternal, directly confronting our notions of continuity and existential persistence. Wright disrupts a primordial human narrative by forcing us to view space and time as fragments rather than as a continuum – thus leaving us to wonder what, if anything, will connect our future to our past.

Sarah Nardi

16 comments on the article “Richard Wright”

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ken vallario

ARTSPEAK ALERT!!!!
"His subtle, ambient designs imbue physical space with emotional content, expanding our understanding of both space and our own role within it."
first of all, what is emotional content? and what is subtle about Wright's imagery. as each vague word piles upon the next i am reminded of watching CNN where the official report 10 minute report is lengthened by the great childhood game of telephone until the news loses its point.
this is a report of the official reading of Wright's work, but ought we not, as a culturally skeptical community wonder if the art world is perhaps too intimately connected to the corporate world?
How exactly does he disrupt the primordial human narrative? And why is this being presented as new. When Yves Klein opened his show in 1958 called The Void, where he presented an empty gallery, did he not achieve a much more bracing jolt to our expectations? What does Wright's work do now but to reinforce the dominance of gallery walls by submitting completely to their authority.
What meaning is he injecting? And how does this relate to rather decorative imagery?
I am not so much criticizing Wright here...fine, whatever...i am criticizing the kind of ineffectual posture we have taken to our arts. intellectuals don't debate the stuff anymore, we are more obese in our arts consumption than in any other field of human culture, i will posit. we treat artists with kid-gloves while the Museum of Modern Art receives funding from Target. I am fine with the idea of art being a game, but let's play, let's not submit to the official story, let's probe into the proposed explanations and actually critique the work. frankly, i'm not sure I see anything earth-shattering, post-modern shattering, or aesthetically shattering about what i see.
as many say who read this site, what is the solution. i actually believe the real risky move in the arts is to attempt to create something, an object, that has innate value because of its qualitative excellence, in a world where such a thing is taken for granted, it becomes infinitely harder, and therefore infinitely more exciting. when somebody refuses to paint over one of wright's paintings, then i will take a look.
back to the article, how are wright's works 'profoundly mortal'? I mean The Last Supper too is 'profoundly mortal', is it not? i suggest the writer really examine the language used here, because art can be identity shattering, but i don't believe her sense of existential persistence was as confronted or undercut as she claims. i would love to know what she really thinks, without the decorous language, does it really blow her mind, this work?

ken vallario

ARTSPEAK ALERT!!!!
"His subtle, ambient designs imbue physical space with emotional content, expanding our understanding of both space and our own role within it."
first of all, what is emotional content? and what is subtle about Wright's imagery. as each vague word piles upon the next i am reminded of watching CNN where the official report 10 minute report is lengthened by the great childhood game of telephone until the news loses its point.
this is a report of the official reading of Wright's work, but ought we not, as a culturally skeptical community wonder if the art world is perhaps too intimately connected to the corporate world?
How exactly does he disrupt the primordial human narrative? And why is this being presented as new. When Yves Klein opened his show in 1958 called The Void, where he presented an empty gallery, did he not achieve a much more bracing jolt to our expectations? What does Wright's work do now but to reinforce the dominance of gallery walls by submitting completely to their authority.
What meaning is he injecting? And how does this relate to rather decorative imagery?
I am not so much criticizing Wright here...fine, whatever...i am criticizing the kind of ineffectual posture we have taken to our arts. intellectuals don't debate the stuff anymore, we are more obese in our arts consumption than in any other field of human culture, i will posit. we treat artists with kid-gloves while the Museum of Modern Art receives funding from Target. I am fine with the idea of art being a game, but let's play, let's not submit to the official story, let's probe into the proposed explanations and actually critique the work. frankly, i'm not sure I see anything earth-shattering, post-modern shattering, or aesthetically shattering about what i see.
as many say who read this site, what is the solution. i actually believe the real risky move in the arts is to attempt to create something, an object, that has innate value because of its qualitative excellence, in a world where such a thing is taken for granted, it becomes infinitely harder, and therefore infinitely more exciting. when somebody refuses to paint over one of wright's paintings, then i will take a look.
back to the article, how are wright's works 'profoundly mortal'? I mean The Last Supper too is 'profoundly mortal', is it not? i suggest the writer really examine the language used here, because art can be identity shattering, but i don't believe her sense of existential persistence was as confronted or undercut as she claims. i would love to know what she really thinks, without the decorous language, does it really blow her mind, this work?

Voltaire

I agree, the idea of "expanding our understanding of...space and our role within it" seems pretty vacuous (pardon the play on words!). And, good point about the Last Supper being as profoundly mortal as any other piece of art, especially more so than Mr. Wright's work, due to the Last Supper having weathered centuries of decay.

A good piece of art in my opinion is like a good piece of Hemingway writing-- unassuming, unpretentious, and ignorant of the meanings it makes. Assigning meaning to a piece of artwork is always an attributive process, it should always be the observer's drawing out and applying his or her own perceptions, distorted in memory, to the work.

Voltaire

I agree, the idea of "expanding our understanding of...space and our role within it" seems pretty vacuous (pardon the play on words!). And, good point about the Last Supper being as profoundly mortal as any other piece of art, especially more so than Mr. Wright's work, due to the Last Supper having weathered centuries of decay.

A good piece of art in my opinion is like a good piece of Hemingway writing-- unassuming, unpretentious, and ignorant of the meanings it makes. Assigning meaning to a piece of artwork is always an attributive process, it should always be the observer's drawing out and applying his or her own perceptions, distorted in memory, to the work.

MadMolecule

This article inspires in me a desire to steal one of his paintings and then NOT destroy it. Bizarro-Dada.

MadMolecule

This article inspires in me a desire to steal one of his paintings and then NOT destroy it. Bizarro-Dada.

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